Aurora Central High School senior Angel Briones spent Monday demonstrating to students how to solder metal in a jewelry making class.
“As a senior, I get off periods and as much as I would like to go home, I chose to come here for the art,” Briones said.
Briones admitted he’s disappointed he won’t be here for the 2022-2023 school year when Aurora Central High School becomes the district’s first visual and performing arts magnet school.
Aurora is creating a K-12 arts pathway located at Peoria Elementary School and Aurora Central High School. Some classes will also take place at an educational services center.
The arts magnet is one of two new magnet programs beginning in 2022. The other, at Wheeling Elementary School, will be an entrepreneurship and invention magnet.
APS director autonomous schools Jeff Park said the changes are not being made because of performance issues at the schools, but rather as part of a plan to address the district’s shifting demographics and population centers, and to offer more specialized learning to students in APS.
“As we pitch specializations, we’re finding things that are really attractive to students and families,” Park said.
Blueprint APS, Aurora Public Schools' district’s long-term plan, has identified seven different regional specializations for magnet schools: visual and performing arts, one health, business management and hospitality, S.T.E.A.M, technology and engineering, project-based learning, and entrepreneurship and invention.
The specializations were assigned to specific geographic areas of the district where there are industry partnership opportunities. The district plans to open new magnet programs within these areas over the next several years.
As a visual and performing arts magnet, Aurora Central will still provide the same core classes, clubs and sports that students expect in a high school. But leaders said the track will be especially appealing to creative students.
“This school is designed for those students who have a passion for drawing, a passion for singing, a passion for dance, who are able to learn through that creative lens,” said Shawn Graziani, who will serve as the K-8 principal for the arts magnet program.
Mehran Ahmed, who was previously the principal at South Middle School, will serve as the high school principal. He said the arts program will help students with critical thinking and problem-solving.
“We get to create this magnet that creates this creative mindset, and when kids graduate from Aurora Central, they’ll have the skill set to do whatever they like,” Ahmed said.
The district hired Jessica Brown, who founded a public arts magnet in Philadelphia, to oversee the K-12 arts program. Brown, Ahmed and Graziani, along with other stakeholders, will spend the next year designing the program and curriculum for their schools. Brown said they’ll also be taking input from parents, teachers and students.
Park said the district will be required to provide transportation to any student in the district who enrolls in the magnet programs. The hope is to provide access and opportunities for every student in APS who wants more specialization in their education.
“What was the thing that really hooked you in school? Was it a club, a sport, a particular subject? We think every student in Aurora deserves that kind of pathway,” Park said.